Economic Development

The economic development funding provided by the General Assembly has been critical to providing valuable and impactful business and technical assistance to both startup and existing Iowa companies. It has also been instrumental to supporting the formation and growth of entrepreneurship educational activities which are essential for future innovation and economic growth. The translation of university discoveries and technologies has proven to be critical and a driving force for statewide innovation and job creation. More importantly, it is necessary for the long-term growth of a sustainable, innovation economy that will position Iowa to be competitive in a global market. 

Economic development is a top priority for Iowa State University. ISU recently was designated as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in recognition of its strong commitment to economic engagement and its work with public and private sector partners in the state and region to promote economic development. 

The Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR), which moved into the new Economic Development Core Facility in the ISU Research Park in June 2016, consists of the following key university economic development units that provide integrated and comprehensive business, technical, entrepreneurial support, and educational services to Iowa State’s clients and partners: the Center for Industrial Research and Service, Small Business Development Center, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, ISU Research Foundation and Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, and ISU Research Park.

Funding is used to support the university’s efforts to improve, connect, and leverage the strengths within the institution and allow better alignment of its economic development efforts with those of the state government and the needs of Iowa industries.

Small Business Development Centers

The Iowa Small Business Development Centers’ (SBDC) purpose is to assist existing businesses and new entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and improve their internal operations to ensure their continued success. It achieves its purpose by providing educational opportunities through workshops, but primarily and most effectively, through one-on-one counseling. Such counseling is, by Congressional mandate, provided at no cost to the client.

Last year, the SBDC provided business assistance to individuals and companies in all 99 counties totaling 4,044 clients and 14,065 counseling hours. As a result of this counseling, 293 new businesses were started and 1,845 jobs were created. Additionally, SBDC assistance was credited by clients with increasing their capital infusion by more than $108.6 million and increasing their sales by more than $111.8 million. This translates into 153 new jobs every month, 24 new business every month and sales increases of $9,317,285 every month. 

Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) Technology Assistance Program

CIRAS provides one-on-one applied research and technical assistance services to Iowa companies to help them prosper and grow. CIRAS has been working with companies in communities across Iowa for more than 50 years and has a vision for Iowa of healthy communities through business prosperity. Cumulatively, over the past five years, CIRAS and partners have reported impact from companies totaling more than $2.5 billion dollars ($2.2 billion in sales gained or retained, $226 million in new investments, $91 million in costs saved or avoided) with 28,043 jobs added or retained as a result of the assistance received.

Last year, 1,705 businesses from 95 Iowa counties received assistance on projects or attended educational workshops from CIRAS’ staff and partners. Companies responding to surveys reported nearly $621 million of total economic impact. The numbers include: $527 million in sales gained or retained; $75 million in new investments; $19 million in costs saved or avoided; and 4,954 jobs added or retained.

The Technology Assistance Program – one of four programs under CIRAS – provided services to 863 companies. Companies responding to surveys reported $163 million of total economic impact and 3,262 jobs created or retained from the technology services they received.

CIRAS has leveraged the Technology Assistance funds to increase the federal funding and fees it receives through its existing Department of Defense and Department of Commerce grants. Funds will be used to expand applied research, technical assistance, and education services provided to Iowa businesses.

Iowa State University Research Park

Serving as the gateway to the Cultivation Corridor, the ISU Research Park (ISU RP) is a hub of collaboration, innovation, and development to elevate Iowa as a global center for excellence in agbiosciences and advanced manufacturing.

The ISU RP is closely connected with the university, but operates independently to help tenants reach proprietary goals, and assist companies in a setting that encourages entrepreneurial ventures and working relationships with Iowa State students and researchers. More than 87 companies/research centers and 11 affiliates are located at ISURP, employing 2,155 and 135 people, respectively. In addition, there are 18 pre-incubator companies located in the ISU Startup Factory. Current ISURP tenants account for more than $100 million annually in economic activity. In addition, companies that started at ISURP and have since expanded or relocated elsewhere in Iowa employ an additional 2,500. The ISURP is paving the way for the next generation of innovation, thought leaders and employees.

The ISU RP is an innovation community and incubator for new and expanding businesses. The Park also assists startup Iowa-based companies develop their potential and nurtures scientific and technological entrepreneurial ventures. Two programs based at the park – the ISU Startup Factory and the Ag Startup Engine – are the foundation for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Three cohorts have completed the program and two are currently in the program for a total of 53 new startup companies. Graduated companies have raised more than $20 million in private and public capital and created 66 jobs

Learn more about the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations